This summer, global nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) teamed up with Travis Hill Schools in New Orleans to activate the entrepreneurial mindset in incarcerated youth.
Travis Hill Schools operates campuses within New Orleans’ Juvenile Justice Detention Center and the Orleans Justice Center (an adult prison). These students recently participated in NFTE BizCamp, a comprehensive program designed for grades 6-12 to teach the fundamentals of entrepreneurship through creating and pitching original business opportunities.
“Our students at Travis Hill are incredibly bright and inventive,” said Rachel Lewis, Travis Hills Schools’ Chief Academic Officer. “We wanted our students to have educational experiences this summer that help them take those existing traits and capabilities and apply them to create a brighter future for themselves.”
Lewis turned to NFTE’s South region which serves Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. For 35 years, NFTE has provided entrepreneurship education to youth in marginalized communities and continues to do so in 30 states and 20 total countries wherever youth are – in class, after school, or in out-of-school programs.
“At NFTE, we know all youth – regardless of circumstances – do well once they are engaged in learning and their entrepreneurial mindset has been activated,” said CEO Dr. J.D. LaRock. “They learn to take initiative, imagine a future for themselves, and adapt or problem-solve when challenges arise. We find that this mindset, our experiential activities, and our award-winning curriculum fit naturally within the framework of juvenile justice education services.”
Over the years, NFTE has also worked with youth through Rikers Island and its juvenile detention centers, as well as with court-involved youth in New York’s Passages Academy, East River Academy, and District 79 alternative schools district.
The May 31-June 16 virtual BizCamp at Travis Hill Schools included mentorship, hands-on entrepreneurial education with highly trained teachers and an inspirational presentation from an entrepreneur who was once incarcerated. Students created business plans for ideas that ranged from a clothing line to hydro dip designing and participated in a fast-pitch challenge.
Trish McKeel, Director of NFTE’s South region, said involvement in the juvenile justice system may disrupt education, but it does not have to be a life sentence to unrealized dreams.
“I asked a 16-year-old in our Travis Hill BizCamp if he had any questions for me, and he said, ‘Will this get me out of prison?’ I told him I wasn’t sure about that but said it may help him stay out if he followed the path to make his business happen,” McKeel recalled. “He said, ‘Then I am in!’”
To learn more about Travis Hill Schools, please visit https://www.travishillnola.org/.
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is a global nonprofit organization that provides high-quality entrepreneurship education to middle and high school students from under-resourced communities, as well as programs for college students and adults. NFTE reaches 50,000+ students annually in 25 states across the U.S. and offers programs in 18 additional countries. We have educated more than a million students through in-school, out-of-school, college, and summer camp programs, offered in person and online. To learn more about how we are promoting inclusive capitalism and building the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs, visit www.nfte.com.
Denise Berkhalter, APR
NFTE National Communications Director